(Olympia, WA) The Washington State Legislature has passed precedent-setting legislation to protect people and orcas from toxic chemical pollution. Governor Inslee supported the legislation and is expected to sign it.
The Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act (SB 5135), sponsored by Senator Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), is now the nation’s strongest policy for regulating toxic chemicals in consumer products. It directs the Washington Department of Ecology to identify and take action on products containing harmful chemicals that pose a health threat to sensitive populations, like pregnant women and children, and sensitive species like orcas and salmon.
Laurie Valeriano, executive director of Toxic-Free Future said, “This huge win keeps Washington state at the forefront of the nation, stopping the use of harmful chemicals in products that pollute our homes, bodies, and waters. The Washington State Legislature stood up to tremendous pressure from the chemical industry and moved forward with bold action that tackles toxic pollution.”
Toxic chemicals in products are a major source of toxic exposures for people as well as orcas and their prey. Products such as carpeting, building materials, detergents, and electronics can contain toxic chemicals associated with reproductive problems and immune suppression.
Scientists have documented that chemicals escape out of products into dust and air in our homes, travel through wastewater, and pollute the environment. This pollution from products is one reason why levels of some contaminants, such as plasticizing chemicals called phthalates, continue to contaminate Puget Sound despite years of cleanup.
“The same toxic chemicals found in our homes and bodies are also found in wastewater, storm water, sediments, and fish and wildlife,” said Mindy Roberts with Washington Environmental Council. “While orcas do not use consumer products like TVs, chemicals from these products build up in our indoor environments and eventually make their way into the outdoor environment.”
The bill sets the following major precedents:
- Directs state agencies to address classes of chemicals and moves away from a chemical by chemical approach, which has historically resulted in companies switching to equally bad or worse substitutes. The first chemical classes to be addressed in products include phthalates, PFAS, PCBs, alkyphenol ethoxylate and bisphenol compounds, and organohalogen flame retardants.
- Gives the Department of Ecology the authority to ban or restrict chemicals after determining safer alternatives are available. It also allows the agency to require disclosure of priority chemicals in key products.
- Establishes timelines for action in the bill and legislative oversight that will keep the program on track and making progress.
“Washington state’s legislature has taken bold action to protect public health and the environment from the dangers of toxic chemicals. Other states and the federal government should follow their lead,” said Liz Hitchcock, Acting Director of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families.
“The use of chemicals of concern in products is still far too common, posing serious long-term risk to human health and the environment,” said Cheri Peele with Clean Production Action. “The Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act will help move the market toward safer chemicals in products, which reduces business liability.”
Sarah Doll, National Director of Safer States said, “Washington state is leading the way, showing other states and the nation how to protect communities and the environment from toxic threats. This victory is especially important given that the federal administration is failing to protect the health of people and the environment from harmful chemicals.”
The Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act passed the Senate by a vote of 25-24 in March, and the House of Representatives by a vote of 60-37 last week. The Senate concurred with the House’s version of the bill by a vote of 27-22, and the bill now awaits final action by Governor Jay Inslee, whose office testified in favor of the bill.
Valeriano concluded, “We want to thank the sponsors of this groundbreaking legislation, Senator Rolfes and Rep. Doglio and the leaders in the House and Senate who helped achieve its passage including Rep. Fitzgibbon, Speaker Chopp, Majority Leader Billig and Senator Carlyle.”
More information on the Pollution Prevention for Our Future Act is available at https://toxicfreefuture.org/pollution-prevention-act.